02 July 2010

Spring Training

How to follow up the Olympics?

Well… yours truly returned to the regular grindstone of phone-counseling the cranky and unemployed. But Chris managed a little trip to Toronto to write a European Union employment test (fingers crossed – send us to Paris!) and while he was there he decided, “Oh, why don’t I just hop down to Orlando on a cheap flight and show up at my parents’ house and surprise them?” How great is that? So he just calls his sister on her cell one night; she makes some kind of excuse to use the car and comes to pick him up from the airport. She takes him home; he goes directly into his sleeping parents’ bedroom and turns on the lights. “Hi Mom and Dad!”

Ha! I wish I could have seen their faces. I wish I could have gone along with him, to tell you the truth – spend a week swimming in their pool, basking in the sun, shopping at the outlets, cooking in their fabulous kitchen. But alas I had to stay home and work. What do you have to do to get an appropriate amount of vacation per year anyway – let’s say 7 weeks? Oh yeah. Work for 20 more years. Ugh. But vacations are not going to be as much fun when I’m 50! Oh the world is so backwards sometimes.

Anyway. The weather in Vancouver was actually pretty nice that week, if I do recall. So I shouldn’t’ complain. I definitely spent all Sunday in the park, lying on the grass and reading, and I believe I grabbed my first ice cap of the season after work on another day.

Upon Chris’ return, however, May long weekend approached quite quickly, and it was simply calling out to us. Lucky for us, this year, I sat down with the calendar nice and early and strategized my vacation planning around those elusive long weekends. The result of my cleverness resulted in me getting a 5-day stretch of days off around Victoria Day! Yesss. Now what to dooo?

Some of you will recall our little getaway to Portland last year. We quite enjoyed that little city, and there were a lot of things that we didn’t get to see and do last time. Plus, it’s just the perfect distance from Vancouver for a long weekend trip so we decided to go back for more! Many discussions and calculations and web-searches later, we decided… to take the train.

Cool, huh? So as we found out, Amtrak has a cheap and very scenic Vancouver to Portland route that runs daily. It’s super convenient for us as well, as we live only a short bus ride from the train station. The whole journey takes a bit longer than driving a car, but if you factor in food and bathroom breaks, it’s about the same. Plus, you basically sit back and watch movies and eat snacks the whole time, which I would take over driving a vehicle any day. Long live the railroad!

DAY 1 – I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD

pacific central
So here I am at Pacific Central, at a very groggy 6:00am

We made our way through some sort of miniature US customs and come face to face with the big guy:

amtrak front

chris amtrak departure
Auf Wiedersehen, Vancouver!

jen amtrak departure
Farewell, dears. Worry not, I’ve got my carpet bag and my hat pins. Let’s find our seats on the trolley, shall we?

A little background here… They’ve got assigned seating on these trains and you really have no say in the matter. You check in, they slap a little sticker on your ticket and you go and find your seats. Chris was told to ask for the “scenic side”, which we did get… apparently… although it was hard to tell from the big fat wall and nasty curtains that were in the way.

chris amtrak wall
Chris: “Oh. They’ll be getting a letter”

We affectionately named it the “smallpox curtain” due to its apparent age and general grossness.

After grumbling about our seats for the first half hour and getting absolutely nowhere, we eventually just settled in, busted out the snacks, books, ipods, etc. and got down to some serious traveling.

chris jen amtrak
Serious. Traveling.

Well, maybe not so serious. The conductor of the train, you see, was a hoot and a half. I don’t remember his name, exactly, but he introduced the whole train crew by weird nicknames he’d given them anyway. I remember “Dynasty Steve” was manning the bistro car, and there were others like “Coal Fire Jordan” or some such thing. This conductor, he was constantly on the mic, like a hilarious cranky old tour guide as we crossed the Fraser River and made our way into Washington State. At one point (as was to happen many more times on our leisurely trek to the south) our train had to stop and wait for a freight train to pass. “If you’ll look to your right… you’ll notice we’ve stopped,” says the conductor in a sleepy voice. “If you look to the left, you may see a freight train passing by... It is the reason we’ve stopped.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, in approximately one mile, we will be passing by a field of sheep. If you’ve ever wished to see a field of sheep, you will have that opportunity half a mile. Thank you.”

field of sheep
“Ladies and gentlemen, a field of sheep.”

We saw plenty of other cool things on the way there, through our tiny crevice of window.

bald eagle
A couple of bald eagles

aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier. If you look closely you can see the fighter jet on it.

big ship
Another big ship. Chris was super excited about these.

tacoma bridge
This is a great shot of the modern-day Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Anyone who was alive in 1940 may remember this. I certainly don't ;)

At one point as we approached Seattle, our trusty conductor pointed out an old military base and proceeded to tell us about how that’s where he joined up in 1969, what it was like, where he went and things, and now that he works on this railroad he gets to pass by it every day and relive the memories. Awwww. We rode on in silence for about 5 more minutes, and then on comes the mic again. This time no talking. Just… harmonica.

We didn’t believe it at first either, but he literally started playing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, one lonely note at a time, on a harmonica, and as the song ended, we rolled into Seattle, (who knows how long past schedule) never to hear from him again.

Not exactly the European rail travel experience thus far, but hey! I got to see “Invictus starting Matt Damon” which was great. The other one they showed on the second stretch was an unspeakable travesty of which you will have to ask me in person, as I refuse to grace the internet with its name.

At last, we arrived in Portland, and by the end of our little journey we’d been tucked away in this window-challenged train car for more than 8 hours, and we realized – if this had been a plane we’d be most of the way to China by now. Oh well. Still better than driving on the highway, I say! And look – Portland!

portland union station
A little more quaint than Pacific Central, isn’t it?

news boxes portland
Pretty colors of a different city

Since we took the train, we decided to stay downtown and so we didn’t return the Kennedy School where we stayed last time, although it’s still the coolest place ever. This time we stayed at a brand new little Mariott, sort of a boutique style thing, just a few blocks from the train station, and, as it turns out, a few blocks from everything else as well!

marriott courtyard

Honestly, the place didn’t look all that fun when we booked it online. The pictures were all a weird color, the price was cheap”er” than most, but we figured it looked clean and it was close to the station. But the minute we had the doors swung open for us by two smiling doormen, we realized, hey – this place is way nice!

marriott bed
Dislcaimer: the bed was much neater but I’d already jumped on it and then realized I wanted to take pictures

marriott corner window
For a mere $2 extra per night we sprung for the “corner room” which was (obviously) in the corner of the building. It had a big corner window and a completely different layout than your typical rectangle hotel room.

marriott desk
There was cute, local artwork all over the place

marriott chris desk
Internet. The single most important tool on a spontaneous vacation.

marriott shower
Last but not least, the bathroom, which was superb. I think I showered twice a day just for the relaxation factor.

marriott bathroom
And I cannot tell you how much I enjoy a bathroom with a window. Oh so many reasons.

OK. Enough about the hotel. Let’s hit the city! The night of our arrival, we cleaned off all the smallpox viruses and ventured out to the first of many brew pubs that we were to visit that weekend.

jen sampling
Best idea ever – sampler tray!

chris sampling
“Hmmm. Light hops, smooth, with a malty finish… yes quite nice indeed”
What a snob ;)

bridgeport samplers
A rainbow of beer!

It was a very nice all-American dinner after our long journey. We got an excellent table, and just sat and ate and relaxed and got into vacation mode.

portland fountain
Warning: don’t climb the unpredictable waterfall-style public fountain while in “vacation mode”

DAY 2: KNOCK KNOCK! WHO’S THERE? OMSI. OMSI WHO?

Good morning cold and rainy Portland! No beach today? Well how about breakfast and a visit to the science museum? Sounds like a fine idea. Let’s the start the day with something hearty.

jewish breakfast
Mmm Jewish pastrami for breakfast. I was so un-kosher and put cream cheese all over mine. Mwa ha ha.

kenny and zukes
This place was pretty cool, even though the food was so-so

crayons
Having crayons is cool

pop bottles
And 99 bottles of pop on the wall!

Once we’d had our fill of pastrami, we headed over to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, also known as… you guessed it… OMSI.

omsi jen

omsi chris

We chose to go here on the Friday instead of Saturday because we hoped there would be fewer children (and fewer strollers, the BANE of my existence - giant strollers in public places). Alas, the number of children there on a Friday afternoon with no recognizable school-field-trip structure has let me to question whether children in Oregon attend school whatsoever. At least I’m taller than them so I could still see stuff.

t rex
This is apparently the most complete T-rex skeleton ever found.

jen ear
I beg your pardon?

jen moonwalk
There was sort of a space exhibit too, which, of course, I could not resist. Look – I’m on the moon! (You will also recognize this pose from previous articles. FYI, it means I'm wearing a space suit :)

jen space bed
This was a future astronaut bunk bed concept. Chris was convinced that I would contract smallpox from lying in it. But I didn’t. Even without my space suit.

chris space bike
Chris got a chance to do this spinning space bike exercise machine. I still have no idea what the thing was supposed to simulate, but it looked sickly enough for me to avoid.

uss blueback
Here’s the reason Chris got out of bed today. A real US military submarine!

submarine top
Apparently it’s been in movies and things. It lives here in the water next to the museum.

submarine torpedos
Chris got to go inside and see the torpedoes. I did the planetarium instead and listened to an annoying lady tell me stuff I already knew about astronomy. I should have gone into the sub. At least there’s pictures.

submarine
Oooh. Attack center. But watch your head. Actually - watch your everything.

submarine controls
This is what you get instead of a windshield

submarine kitchen
The kitchen – apparently submarine crews get the best food in the military. Compensation for the fact you live underwater with 60 other guys and no showers.

We had tickets to the IMAX in our museum package, but we sat in the dark for 10 minutes and were told that the IMAX was broken. Don’t ask me how you break and IMAX, but we got refunds for it and bought $7 sandwiches instead.

That night, as we were pooped from the museum, we went and chilled out at another fantastic pub!

davis street salads
This. Was. The best. Salad. I’ve ever. Had.

Memories: Artichokes, pea shoots, grapes, roasted almonds, Satsuma orange dressing, and little deep-fried balls of goat’s cheese and fennel. I had a beer from Washington, also tasty.

OH. And a dark chocolate bread pudding with caramel. OH. Yes.

davis street tavern
Another relaxing evening!

DAY 3: IF ONLY IT COULD STAY BREAKFAST TIME FOREVER

Good morning, Schatz! It’s another terribly rainy day in Portland!

chris pillow head
The bed was quite comfy, as you can see

At some point mid-morning we strolled out of our hotel and ended up at a very popular, very amazing restaurant. Sort of South American with a modern organic type of flair.

power breakfast
This was from the “power breakfast” menu. Inside the burrito there’s seasoned chicken and egg whites and cheese. After eating this I actually felt really great! It is really different from the fried-meat-and-eggs feeling.

breakfast enchilada
Chris had the fancy breakfast enchilada, along with a delicious (albeit quite late in arriving, tsk tsk) mocha made with spiced chocolate.

Since it was raining once again, we decided to hang out in the city this day, possibly doing some shopping and taking advantage of Oregon's zero sales tax. (Seeing now the way this day ended up going, I’m glad I had the power breakfast!)

portland old wall
On our way to Patagonia, some sort of old wall that they left standing but behind which they built trendy things like condos and stores (like Patagonia). One of many trendy things we’d encounter.

jen trees
Me and some trees on a wooden sidewalk. Ok fine, it stopped raining intermittently. But it was still way too cold for the beach :(

chris anvil
Chris and an anvil. He gets very excited about these things, you see, because until a few months ago, he didn’t even know that they were real. He literally thought they were some funny made-up prop for Looney Toons. Now he wants one as a bookend.

After a few more wanderings, we ended up at the mall.



DAD? You didn’t tell me you had a mall…

Now, I’m normally not a shopper, but when there’s vacation time to kill and I’m in a completely new and different place (recall: Orlando), sometimes I'll give it a go. Besides, (contrary to the above picture of blue skies, stolen from Wikipedia), it was raining buckets, so why not?

Well... I’ll tell you why not.

Because you'll go into the first store, you'll find a bunch of nice things and be ready pay and leave, so you'll go find your boyfriend but he'll tell you that he needs more time to pick out a belt, so you'll go back up to the women’s stuff for a few minutes, then come back down, but not find your boyfriend ANYWHERE. You'll look around the store again, you'll try phoning but not get an answer. Then you'll pay and leave said store and try calling him few more times without getting an answer, then you'll walk through the entire mall going into HIS favorite stores looking for HIM instead of shopping for yourself, after about an hour you'll get tired and go to the food court and get a smoothie. You'll sit down because you now remember reading somewhere that when you’re lost in the woods you should remain in one spot because it increases the likelihood of being found, and this is more or less like the woods, right? You'll try calling again and again at 5-minute intervals, and finally after another half hour he'll answer his phone saying, “where the hell are you? I’m still waiting in the first store!”

It turns out on the main floor of a certain store in a certain mall named after my father; there is no cell phone reception.

Now, after having a sad little argument about who should have waited for whom, and being tired and cranky about the whole debacle, we vacated the mall after not too long.

jen hot dog girl'
But not after visiting Hot Dog on a Stick! (Don’t worry, I didn’t actually eat Hot Dog on a Stick – although I probably would have tried it). Chris just got a lemonade, and I got a picture with the cute girl in the fantastically American food-vendor attire.

That day thankfully behind us, we had allow Portland to redeem itself to us with another brew pub visit.

Pre-processed chicken wings and unimpressive salads aside, we did manage to wind down quite nicely after all.

rock bottom samplers
Let’s find out what’s at the end of this rainbow :)

DAY 4: TAKE MY BREATH AWAY(YY)

More cold and clouds, still no beach in sight. What is it when I go to the states? Hey California, feeling hot? Just send me on down there, I’ll bring some good ol’ Vancouver weather along.

Despite the lack of sun, though, we were determined to enjoy this day more than the last. First order of the day, breakfast! Chris had looked this place up already and made sure we would go here for brunch, which they serve only on Sundays. We even got there at 9:00 sharp and walked in just as they unlocked the pretty glass doors.

jen fenouil menu
We got a cute little table in the corner by the windows and the fireplace. You also have the pleasure of viewing one of the few successes of our shopping trip the previous day: my ($10!) wool and angora sweater, which I donned for the fine dining experience.

jen fenouil
Fine dining or not, portions are still American-sized! I had an omelette with chantrelles, peas and goat’s cheese. Yukon gold potatoes on the side. Delishhh.

chris fenouil
And here is Mr. Christian (before coffee, perhaps?) With his smoked trout eggs benedict on a house-made brioche. Quite.

Next stop – a random location in the country just outside of a little town called McMinnville. Did we go on a wine tour? No. To a brewery? No. Did we go on a mountain hike? A bike trip? A river cruise? No. No. No.

We went to see the Spruce Goose!

More specifically, we went to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, a completely random and very enormous congregation of airplane-hangar type glass buildings in the middle of a field in Oregon’s back country. It was put together by the late Captain Michael King Smith, an aviation enthusiast and hometown hero. Basically, he liked planes, he flew planes, he collected planes, and he wanted to make an airplane museum in his town. In 1990, they obtained and built a giant hangar around the “Hughes Flying Boat H-4 (HK-1) Hercules” also known as the “Spruce Goose” - the largest airplane (still) ever built. (Like, Howard Hughes, “The Aviator”, you know the story).

So, after our fancy pantsy breakfast, we jumped in a little rental car and headed for the hills.

outside runway
Or… the tarmac?

The road leading from the highway was actually painted as a giant runway. Chris was way excited.
Is that even legal for traffic?

outside hangar
I actually thought the huge building looked like some kind of big cult institution.

outside F-5E
Just an airplane cult, I guess!

jen shuttle golf cart
If I had a golf cart, it would be this one. You know it.

So, you get inside…. and BAM! The Spruce Goose just takes up your whole field of vision. It’s giant!

spruce goose side

chris spruce goose
Can you see little Chris?

jen spruce goose
Yeah, in this museum there aren’t even that many barriers or “do not touch” signs. Recipe for fun!

howard hughes doll
This was a miniature of the plane with Mr. Howard Hughes inside. Or is it Leonardo Dicaprio?

inside spruce goose front

We even got to go inside the massive thing. There’s a viewing platform inside the door, but it has all glass walls. This is the view to the front of the plane. At the top of that staircase is a sort of lounge and then the cockpit. Apparently the cockpit can hold like ten people.

inside spruce goose
This is the view to the back. "Hellooo-eloo-loo-oo…" They put a plastic guy in there to show the scale. I called him Goose.

After sufficient feasting of our eyes, we moved right along to the many other planes in the hangar.

trick plane
They used to make little stylish trick planes like this for those handsome flying aces.

chris F-105
Ouch! Medic! We need a Band-aid!

maverick doll
I rounded the corner and this guy scared the crap out of me. I called him Maverick.

ford 5AT-B
This is from the days when Ford dabbled in aviation. The suitcases went inside the wings. Outfitted as a passenger plane, it had wicker chairs, woodgrain and even curtains on the inside.

Another plane actually ended up being the highlight of the whole visit for us (Spruce Goose shmoose). You’ll have to bear with me now as I go into a little more detail. Hah, and you thought you were coming close to the end of the blog post. Well, think again!

b17 flying fortress
As I quickly learned, this was a B-17 Bomber also known as the “Flying Fortress”. Coming closer, I knew I’d certainly seen it in at least a few movies. It’s a very dramatic plane, after all. Paying an extra few dollars each, we got to climb right inside and get a grand tour from real veterans.


No, these weren’t the actual guys.

But they had a lot of catalogues of old pictures like this there as well, showing different kinds of terrible damage that these planes sustained while still returning home. We heard a few stories too. Guts and all!

So these planes were completely un-insulated and un-pressurized and made of metal just a few millimeters thick. The men inside actually had to wear insulated woolen suits and breathe canned oxygen to survive at the high altitudes. The inside would get totally coated with frost while at high altitudes. The name "Flying Fortress" just comes from the fact that they had 5 machine guns pointing in every which direction and carried over 4,000 pounds of bombs.

chris b17 gunner
“Dsh-dsh-dsh-dsh-dsh-dsh” A regular Clark Gable.

b17 machine guns
Side guns from the outside

b17 bomb bay
This is the bomb bay and just beyond is the cockpit. Just below the cockpit is the “nose turret”, the glass area on the nose of the plane, which had another big machine gun coming out of it. That V-shaped section in the middle was the only way to the rest of the plane. Basically, the pilots and the nose gunner would enter through their own front hatch and there was no access to the rest of the plane (or the other guys) during flight. They just had radio… unless the radio was broken.

b17 ball turret
This is the "ball turret" on the underside of the plane. Another machine gun. A (presumably quite small) guy would enter from the inside of the plane and then it would hydraulically drop down and he would shoot planes below… unless the hydraulics were broken.

b17 tail guns
And this is machine gun number five, in the tail of the plane. Apparently it was popular for enemy aircraft to approach you from behind (who woulda thought?), and this guy took care of them. The only problem was that enemy aircraft really really didn’t like him.

That exceedingly interesting little venture marked the end of our tour of the “Aviation” part of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. That’s right, there’s more! To the next giant glass hangar we go!

Inside of this one, we were to learn about the development of rockets and spaceflight through the ages.

tall missile
This is one of those missiles that were supposed to launch nuclear warheads out of secret silos in the Midwestern United States and irrevocably destroy the Soviet Union, in the event that the Soviet Union had launched nuclear warheads that were already on their way to irrevocably destroy the United States. (Hmmmm…)

jen and warhead
Well look at that. I’m pretty sure I never thought I’d be standing next to a warhead.

jen under capsule
This has to be one of the best pictures of all time. Jen! Watch out for that Apollo Command Module!

interchange
This is the instrument ring of a Saturn V Rocket - a vehicle with which we are very familiar, are we not?

sr71 blurry
Whoa. Did I black out? Chris? What’s that fearsome thing lurking behind you? Da-na… da-na da-na...

sr71 front
It’s an SR-71 Blackbird! They say it’s the fastest, highest flying and most pointy, scary-looking aircraft ever built. Apparently it flew from New York to London in 1 hour and 55 seconds. (I suppose those passengers only had time for one movie).

sr71
It was a spy plane. Apparently it could accelerate so fast, that it would consistently outrun surface-to-air missiles.

But enough about planes.

We, now, having some serious cases of museum fatigue, were finally able to jump into our rental car again, make our way back through wine country and collapse in our hotel. Having had late lunch of museum cafĂ© fare, however, we were not ready for dinner, and, this being our final day in Portland, we decided to check off one more of our major destinations: Powell’s Books.

As was the case last time I didn’t take any pictures. But how do you convey in pictures the fact that a single new and used bookstore takes up an entire city block? If I took a picture, all you’d see is a single bookshelf. And it could be a bookshelf at Friesen’s for all you know. That’s why you’ll just have to take my word for it. This place is great fun. I came with a list and I managed to check off 90% of it. I had a stack of books about 2 feet high, some even in German. Chris did as well. We kept saying we’d meet up at a certain time at a certain shelf, we’d meet, inform each other that we needed another half hour, meet again, arrange more time, meet again, etc.

Eventually, though, the requirement for food was once again upon us, spurring us onwards and outwards, and after toting our masses of books back to the hotel, it was time to see about dinner.

Oh, dinner. After dropping off the books, we dragged our weary bodies to another brewpub in the trendy district by our hotel. But what? You’re not serving dinner anymore? Only pub snacks? Oh. Well, you suck! Buuuut maybe we shouldn’t have waited until 9:00pm either. Oh well. This is Portland, we must be able to find a place that caters to the young and hip and responsibility-less who choose to eat dinner at 9:30pm! Right?

Indeed. Just rounding the corner from our original breakfast locale, we came across this place.



It was so trendy I think everyone in there was sporting some sort of oversized pedophile glasses and/or skinny jeans. It was so trendy that you didn’t sit at your own table, because there was only a very large, long table, and you sat with everyone. It was so trendy that there weren’t flowers on the tables, but giant branches of evergreen trees in huge vases along the wall, and there wasn’t any artwork on the walls – because they didn’t “need” artwork. And… it was so trendy that it was serving full dinner until 11:00pm. Huzzah for trendy!

OK. Aside from all the trendyness, the food was just excellent. And not just because our stomachs had turned inside out by this point. I had a whole entire char-grilled trout stuffed with potatoes and parsley and garlic and all sorts of goodies. Chris had pasta with squid, there was a dandelion salad with pickled raisins involved, some more good beer… oh yes it quite hit the spot. And because you’re around a large table, you get to sit side by side and share all the dishes you get (oh, but just with your date!)

“Any dessert for you?”
“No, thanks” – we have another destination in mind!

Having been quite re-energized by our dinner, we had to stop one more place before turning in.

Now, long ago one of the first times I got my hair cut in Vancouver, my very cool hairdresser told me about this donut shop in Portland that I simply had to visit. The first time we were there, we didn’t get a chance because we weren’t staying downtown. But this time. This time. We made it to Voodoo Donuts.

voodoo inside

This place is slightly beyond words. I imagine I would have more words for it if we went in the daytime. But, with the vacation clock a-ticking, we went that same night. I will attempt a description for the benefit of my faithful readers. This place is a hole-in-the-wall donut shop on a creepy side street, it's very badly lit but it’s painted completely pink on the inside, and had screaming vampire music playing (or coming from the night club attached, perhaps). It had all kinds of weird items hanging on the pink walls, a creaky, rotating display case with shrivelled examples of all their donuts inside and a very pale and disinterested sales girl behind a counter along with racks and racks of donuts. They say this place can get lineups around the block during the day. Fortunately, I suppose, we were there around 11pm and only had to wait for two or three people ahead of us. I’m not sure if you would get the whole screaming pink vampire experience during the day, either :P

voodoos
We opted for takeout. Here’s our loot back at the hotel.

Chris got normal, boring donuts. A boston cream and a sour cream glazed. I ventured a little further out there, with their classic voodoo doll (pierced by a pretzel stick!) and a rice krispy and peanut butter donut. Very yummy all around.

jen voodoo
Oh yeah. There was raspberry filling in the voodoo doll. Sooo vampire.

DAY 5: A CURE FOR SMALLPOX

Departures are so sad. Especially when you know you’ll be on the go for the next 5-10 hours and after that, back at work. We made the most of our last morning in Portland, though, with some last minute stops, one of which involved picking up coffee, breakfast and lunches from a fantastic bakery.

The train station was annoyingly packed and our train was full as well. Once again, Chris tried his charms in attaining a seat with a proper window, but once again they just slapped the stickers on our tickets and hurried us along. And, as Amtrak seems to have it in for us, we got seated by possibly the exact same wall and smallpox curtain that we’d had on the way here. This time, though, we just took a deep breath, tied up the curtain in a big knot up by the ceiling and made do with our window crevices.

Oh, and they played the same movies on the way back. Who does that??


This is a replica of the picture I took of Chris which misplaced during a recent hard drive malfunction. Not a bad replica, though, if I do say so myself!

Our return trip actually involved transfer onto a bus from Seattle to Vancouver. It was supposed to be cheaper, it was supposed to be faster. Supposed to be.

Getting off the train in Seattle, we entered this grungy, old, dark train station. We claimed our bags and went outside and boarded the already crowded bus, found some seats in the back by the stinky bathroom, only to have some other people get on and tell us they’d already been on the bus and we were in their seats. Oh, great. Seeing as these people came on the bus very last, and there were actually no more seats whatsoever, Chris and one of the guys went and talked to the driver. Thank you again Amtrak, the bus was overbooked. Once more I am forced to ask – who does this??

Well, after finding out that this particular overcrowded bus, which was supposed to reach Vancouver at 8:00pm, was also expecting an extra 3-5 hour wait at the border, Chris and I quickly jumped on the chance to remove ourselves from the vehicle. We accepted the refund on the bus tickets and quickly went back to the dingy Amtrak desk to arrange seats on the next train departing for good ol’ Canada. Truly, after having sat on that tiny coach bus for ten minutes we were fully prepared to fork over the extra fare for some comfy train seats home. We ended up being quite lucky because the very helpful Kevin Costner look-alike train ticket agent graciously put us on the last seats on the last train to Vancouver, and to top it off (in addition to our refunded bus fare), he gave us the train tickets for free!

As we had more than an hour before our new favorite train was leaving, it gave us a little time to stroll around Seattle.

seattle ballpark
Oooh, baseball.

We also stopped at Starbucks, because you just have to if you’re in Seattle, and got some frappucinos which re-eally hit the spot after our bus fiasco.


One more replica photo of us with our frapps, posing in front of the Starbucks sign. How realistic!

Once again, back at the train station, we had to stand in a horrendous lineup, but it was ok because we knew we wouldn’t be waiting at the border on the bus. We got our seat stickers like the train-traveling drones we are, waited in yet another line, and eventually boarded the train and found where we would be planting our bums for the next four hours.

And guess what??

chris thumbs up window
WINDOWS!!

chris happy window
YAYYY!!

They actually put us in a four-seater with a couple of high school boys who looked harmless enough. The funny thing was that the boys were traveling in a group of four and the other two were seated across the aisle in a four-seater with another couple (you know, the ticket-sticker people have the ability to make people’s lives so much easier - they just don’t). Anyways, we offered to trade seats with the boys right away, and they were happy. We were happy too, actually, because we got to sit with this other nice couple and trade stories about our weekends. Also, we got to see views like this from our new side of the train:

olympic mountains
The Olympic mountain range (complete with sunbeams)

The other great thing is, that we actually arrived back at Pacific Central a few minutes before the coach bus (the bus that left, if you recall, more than 2 hours before we did on the train!) Oh those suckers who wanted their seats back. Ha ha ha.

We eventually made it through mini-customs in the station, took one more ride on the city bus and we were home again. With that, our May long weekend 2010 comes to a close. Bad weather having no influence on the good times, which is as it should be.

But dear Mr. Sun,
Although I had a great holiday, please do not hesitate to come out soon.
Thank you.
Sincerely, Jennifer.

1 comment:

Erin said...

WAS IT TWILIGHT?!? Although I don't foresee that being unspeakable.

Also, your pictures are spectacular, as per usual. I want to go to Portland!